Drew Peterson Shuts Down Web Site

The embattled, but still uncharged Illinois cop closes his online defense fund.

ByJIM AVILA, BETH TRIBOLET & CHRIS FRANCESCANI
February 26, 2009, 8:26 PM

Dec. 12, 2007 — -- It didn't take long for Drew Peterson to get what he wanted from the Web site he launched to raise money for a legal defense fund in the still-mysterious disappearance of his fourth wife, Stacy.

The site was shut down Wednesday, and his lawyer, Joel Brodsky, told ABC Chicago affiliate WLS that they had already achieved their short-term goals from the site.

He wouldn't say, however, how much money they might have raised in the time the site was in operation.

The site, which had contained an emotional plea for financial support from a man who said he felt victimized by police pressure, and a media witch hunt, now simply says, "This Domain (defenddrew.com) Has Been Disabled."

Peterson has repeatedly denied involvement in his wife's disappearance. He has said that he believes that Stacy left him for another man. Legal experts called the online defense fund highly unusual, if not unprecedented, because the former police officer has not been charged with a crime.

Brodsky told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit the cyberplea for support was needed.

"Drew is not a rich man, and this case will be expensive," he said.

"Attention-grabbing headlines have forced both Drew and the children into the spotlight,'' the short-lived site read. "For the cost of a few cups of your morning coffee, you can help to ensure that Drew can afford to support his ongoing legal defense, find his missing wife, and divert any remaining funds into a trust for his children.

"Our legal system is built upon the fundamental truth that you are innocent until proven guilty. The media has decided to sensationalize this story, and the collateral damage is neverending."

Suspicion has swirled around Peterson since virtually the start of the investigation into the disappearance of his 23-year-old wife, who was last seen on Oct. 28.

Recently, a local pastor reported that he'd once heard Stacy blurt out in a diner that her husband had killed his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Former Westbrook Christian Church pastor Neil Schori told Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren, Monday, that Stacy Peterson told him in August that her husband admitted killing Savio.

Savio's body was found in her bathtub in 2004, and her death was initially ruled an accidental drowning. After Stacy Peterson disappeared in October, prosecutors opened another investigation into the Savio case, and said it appeared her death was a homicide, staged to look like an accident.

Drew Peterson has not been named a suspect in her death.

In addition to a legal defense fund, Peterson's site sought money to hire a private investigator to help find Stacy, and pledged that any leftover money would be put into a trust for Peterson's four children. Last week, investigators plunged the icy depths of an Illinois canal, looking for evidence of the young woman's disappearance.

Police previously searched Peterson's home and seized some of his property, including computers, a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix, and a 2005 GMC Yukon Denali. An earlier search warrant indicated that police were searching for records from the company that made the GPS system in Peterson's Denali.

The latest warrant, obtained last week by ABC News, said that police intend to search Peterson's GPS system, which "contains data in a format that is not easily obtained or seized."

It also said that police were looking for plastic shavings, blue plastic, lead weights, and other objects with scuff marks, circular impressions, or any other indication that Peterson had a "plastic or barrel-like object, or large storage container" in the SUV.

And, according to the warrant, police are looking at anything that could help them place Peterson's car at a specific location, such as dirt, gravel and soil. Cops are also looking for guns, ammunition, knives, ropes, carpet, or anything else that may have been used as a "weapon or restraint."

The warrant seeks objects that "have any of the following on them: blood, hairs, fingernails, bodily fluids, body tissue, DNA, fingerprints, fingernail scrapings, palm prints, saliva, urine, feces or other biological material, which may be evidence of the offense of first-degree murder."

"Drew and his children should not have to lose everything accumulated in 30 years of public service,'' the Web site message concluded. "Drew and his children risk losing their life savings, house, automobiles, and may end up impoverished, all by simply defending himself against allegations."

The site billed itself as the Official Drew Peterson Defense Fund — People For Justice.

Jim Avila, Beth Tribolet and Chris Francescani of the ABC News Law & Justice Unit contributed to this report.

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